The Daniel 9:27 Debate
by General James Green
THE POPULAR MODERN SCHOOL OF BIBLE prophecy interpretation is called “Dispensationalism” or “Dispensational Pre-Millennialism.” In this study, as we challenge this popular modern school of thought, we want to deal with Daniel 9:24-27. I grant you, there are sundry ways these verses have been interpreted. But my main point and question to answer here is: “Who is the Covenant-maker in verse 27?” It is rightly said that Daniel 9:27 is, without question, the CHIEF interpretative “watershed,” as it were, “for two mutually exclusive and opposing viewpoints on end-time Bible prophecy”: Is the “Covenant-maker” the Antichrist,...or Christ?
Now, if Jesus the Christ/Messiah is the
“Covenant-maker,” then this puts us (with these verses in Daniel) in a
time-frame during His earthly ministry—in the PAST! If
the “Covenant-maker” is the Antichrist, then we must look towards the FUTURE...to
a 7-year “Great Tribulation” (as I was taught in my early ministerial
training); and thus we must accept Dispensational-Antinomianism’s
“Darbyism”—a postponement of the
I have researched numerous theological books on this issue written by men with opposing viewpoints. Confusion basically reigns! But there has to be only ONE WAY that the Word of God is meant to be interpreted here.
“Seventy weeks are determined upon thy people and upon thy holy city, to finish the transgression, and to make an end of sins, and to make reconciliation for iniquity, and to bring in everlasting righteousness, and to seal up the vision and prophecy, and to anoint the most Holy. Know therefore and understand, that from the going forth of the commandment to restore and to build Jerusalem unto the Messiah the Prince shall be seven weeks, and threescore and two weeks: the street shall be built again, and the wall, even in troublous times. And after threescore and two weeks shall Messiah be cut off, but not for himself: and the people of the prince that shall come shall destroy the city and the sanctuary; and the end thereof shall be with a flood, and unto the end of the war desolations are determined. And he shall confirm the covenant with many for one week: and in the midst of the week he shall cause the sacrifice and the oblation to cease, and for the overspreading of abominations he shall make it desolate, even until the consummation, and that determined shall be poured upon the desolate” (Dan. 9:24-27).
These verses contain several debates:
the “70 weeks” issue, the “Covenant-maker” debate, and the controversy
concerning the “people of the prince” that shall come and destroy the city
“70 Weeks”—v. 24
THE “70 WEEKS” are to be understood as 70 hebdomads (70 groups of 7, or 70 x 7) or “weeks of years,” as they call them: i.e., “70 weeks” represents 490 years. (The Greeks and Romans had a similar idea of a “week-year”; see Aristotle, Politics, v.11.16; Gellius, Attic Nights, III.10.) It is commonly thought that the writer derives this “70 weeks” idea from Leviticus 25:2 and 26:18-35. The 70 x 7 idea might well have suggested that it would last 7 times Jeremiah’s “70 years,” and this would connect easily with the sabbatical year of Leviticus 25. With this in mind, one can see the way that was prepared for this yet-to-come “70 weeks” by the manner in which the “70 years” of Jeremiah in 2 Chronicles 36:21 are calculated as starting with the destruction of Jerusalem in 586 BC and finishing under Cyrus, so that further destruction (as is mentioned here in Daniel) must mean that a yet further date (i.e., from Daniel’s day onward) is to be looked for—in contrast to what some believe about this prophecy in Daniel being something already PAST at the time Daniel was written. Was this further date AD 70, or still future beyond this?
Some think that 70 hebdomads should be calculated from the date of the prophecy itself: i.e., from the first year of Darius. Others carry a different opinion. If one researches what the early Christian Church fathers thought, one will even find much disagreement among them—just like now.
Our Dispensational opponents
see a (distant) FUTURE 7-year “Tribulation” here and in the book of
Revelation. This brings us to the crux of the matter. What this “in house”
war (as some call it) amounts to is whether or not there will be a FUTURE
7-year “Great Tribulation” [at which time The Antichrist makes a
covenant with the (racial) Jews for 3½ years, breaks it, and then persecutes
the Jews for another 3½ years—a total of 7 years]. If the Dispensationalists
are right, then this scenario necessitates a literal rebuilt
Analytical Bible Study
I’LL LEAVE THIS up to those who are qualified. I just want to keep this study simple (if this is possible!). One thing’s for sure: there are definitely OPPOSING sides in this “in house” mini-war. But this does not mean it is not a valid war, for it is either we teach God’s people to watch/pray/prepare/fight NOW, do the Gospel thing NOW, contend for the truth NOW, FEAR God (not “times”) NOW, or we just wait for some fairytale “secret Rapture” to take us up, UP, and AWAY to Escapeland somewhere in Heaven. This second option is preferred by the lazy masses. I choose the first, for it is the true Scriptural option.
2,000+ Year Gap
THE “SPECULATIVE THEORY’S” presumed 7-year “Tribulation”
period has been separated in time from what the majority of Christian
interpreters have believed to be the First Advent of Jesus Christ. In other
words, with the “Speculative Theory” view, we see that from the death of
Jesus till the time the “secret Rapture” they place a “gap,” or a
“parenthesis”—between the close of the “69th week” (of Daniel) and
the opening of the “70th week.” In this “gap” they insert the
“Church age.” And with this, we face another question: the Church/Israel debate—Is
the Church God’s true
Racial Jews Only?
YES! WITHIN THIS Dispensational argument we find the
speculative assumption that the “70 weeks” of Daniel deal exclusively with the
racial Jews in the FUTURE. But like I’ve already said elsewhere, this
“Jew” issue is tied to Old Testament Messianic prophecies—were they
fulfilled in Christ and in the New Testament Christian Church (“spiritual
LET’S EXAMINE THIS 70th week thing a bit more. (Numbers 14:34 shows us this “year-for-a-day” principle; so does Ezekiel 4:4-6.)
Most Christians are pretty united on verse 25's “seven weeks, and threescore and two weeks” (69 total “weeks,” or 483 years) measured unto “Messiah”; but concerning the 70th week is where we have this “in-house” war—the “fulfilled” view and the “yet future” interpretations. But just how did our opponents come up with a 2,000+ year gap between the 69th week and the 70th week?
Again, as stated beforehand, the Futurist camp believes that the 70th week refers to the Antichrist, not Christ Himself, who will make a “covenant” with the Jews, allowing them to offer animal sacrifices in a (literal) rebuilt Temple at Jerusalem; but after 3½ years, Antichrist, being the “devil” he is, will break this “covenant” and cause the sacrifices to cease.
We of the opposite camp believe the “Covenant-maker” is Jesus the Christ, who caused the animal sacrifices to cease when He Himself was “the Lamb of God” who was offered upon the cross: Christ became the FINAL and PERFECT sacrifice for the world’s sins. This view is clearly in your Bible.
DANIEL 9:25 REFERS to 7 weeks and 62 weeks (which = 69
weeks), after which is the “cut off” period: “...the Anointed One shall
be CUT OFF” (v. 26). Mashiah is the Hebrew word for “Messiah”
and means “Anointed One.” But some object to this being
I could go into many various
authors who do not believe that Jesus the Messiah was who Daniel spoke of.
But the main teacher (not the actual founder) of all this Dispensationalism
stuff was Sir Robert Anderson, 19th century British author/lawyer.
It is he who has provided us (thank you!) with this whole picture of
modern Dispensational eschatology. My organizational Pentecostal
teacher/preacher (from 1972-1977) used
THE BOASTED IDEA
Perceptive opponents of “dispensational” Bible prophecy theory know full well that in the final analysis, when logical necessity has been reduced to its lowest common denominator, Nineteenth Century British author/lawyer Sir Robert Anderson’s interpretation of Daniel’s prophecy of the Seventy Weeks provides the chief exegetical “backbone” for the whole of modern dispensational eschatology. Implicitly or explicitly, consciously or unconsciously, a vast multitude of modern, aspiring dispensational Bible prophecy “experts” must trace the origins for the most basic organizational concepts in their scenarios back to Daniel’s prophecy of the Seventy Weeks, and (though probably unbeknown to many who have simply jumped on a “bandwagon” of popular taken-for-grantedness in sweet oblivion to the need for foundational exegetical assessments of their own!!!) back to Sir Robert Anderson, and his now classic work on the Weeks, The Coming Prince.1
The Founding Patriarch
If Sir Robert Anderson’s interpretation of Daniel’s prophecy of the Seventy Weeks does indeed provide the chief exegetical “cornerstone” for all of modern dispensational Bible prophecy theory, then, in the interest of both truth and fairness, we will do well to try to understand and to evaluate his thought. A brief outline of the distinguishing features of his scheme of the Seventy Weeks, as set forth in the nineteenth edition of The Coming Prince, is presented here as follows:
1. The 490 years of the vision are “prophetic” years of 360 days each, and not solar years of 365 1/4 days (pp. XLV-XLVI, 67-75)
2. They begin with the decree of Artaxerxes I Longimanus to Nehemiah, as recorded in Nehemiah chapter two, on March 14, 445 B.C. (pp. XLV, 51-56, 121-123)
3. Sixty-nine weeks of the vision, or 483 years, ended with the public presentation of Jesus to the Jews, as promised Messiah, on Palm Sunday, April 6, A.D. 32 (pp. XLVI-XLVII, 79, 97-129)
4. The beginning and ending dates for the sixty-nine weeks are inclusively exact according to the prophetic method of reckoning time, that is, the intervening period between March 14, 445 B.C. and April 6, A.D. 32 is exactly 173,880 days, which, with leap year adjustments, answers perfectly to 483 x 360: i.e., 483 is the total number of years in the sixty-nine weeks (69 x 7); 360 is the number of days per each prophetic year (pp. XLVI, 127-129)
5. The entire seventieth week, or seven years, is yet future; it begins when the eschatological “Roman Antichrist” makes a covenant of peace, or security, with the Jews for seven years (pp. 169, 181-184, 296)
6. The Revived Roman Empire of the last days, from which this covenant making and breaking Roman Antichrist arises, will be abruptly overthrown by the apocalyptic intervention of Jesus Christ in the Battle of Armageddon, and the subsequent setting up of his glorious millennial kingdom on earth (pp. 184, 218-219, 290)
7. God’s prophetic click stopped “ticking” at the close of the sixty-nine weeks, and will not begin its proverbial ticking anew until the opening of the yet future seventieth week (these exact words are not used but the same idea is clearly enunciated on pp. 149-170, 180, 288-290)
8. The present dispensation of the Church age intervenes between the sixty-ninth and the seventieth week (see the same pages as above). According to Sir Robert Anderson, “A silent heaven marks this age of grace” (p. 208)!
The Formative Position
Sir Robert Anderson’s impressive new precision-quality solution to the chronology of the sixty-nine weeks undoubtedly forged a major link in the historical chain of ideational developments leading to a greater proliferation, among fundamentalists, of the Nineteen Century Plymouth Brethren prophetic distinctives originating with Edward Irving and John Nelson Darby.2 Premillennial Calvinists, who were already impressed by the interpretative novelties of Irving and Darby, soon found in this new view of the Weeks a convenient and compelling organizational catalyst for solidifying that previously less cohesive Plymouth Brethren ideology into the integrated system of biblical interpretation that is known as dispensationalism today.
The Fundamental Program
Sir Robert Anderson’s new precision-quality solution to the chronology of the sixty-nine weeks contributed to the formation of modern dispensationalism in two important ways. First, it set the stage for interpreting Daniel’s seventieth week in terms of a seven year future prophetic “Great Tribulation” timetable characterized by the covenant making and breaking activities of a Roman Antichrist. Second, it became the basis for the idea in Darbyism of a “postponement” of the messianic kingdom Jesus came to establish at his First Advent, with its resultant necessary, but artificial, distinction between God’s purpose for national Israel and God’s purpose for the Church.
According to dispensationalists, this present “Church age” serves as a great parenthesis in redemptive history between the close of Sir Robert Anderson’s sixty-ninth week, when God’s prophetic clock stopped ticking as far as the nation of Israel was concerned, and the opening of the yet future seventieth week, when God’s interrupted plan to re-establish the Old Testament Davidic monarchy centered about Judaism’s nationalistic interests becomes operative again. Powerfully influenced by Sir Robert Anderson’s impressive new solution to the chronology of the sixty-nine weeks, the dispensational program of salvation history soon crystallized into a game plan that looks like this:
The Fuller Peek
A fuller peek at Sir Robert Anderson’s interpretation of Daniel’s prophecy of the Seventy Weeks, as set forth in his classic work, The Coming Prince, reveals his scheme to be a complex melting pot of original ideas, Patristic insights, and Protestant Reformation concerns.
First, we note that Sir Robert Anderson derived at least three specific elements in his exposition of the Weeks from the Patristic Fathers. These are:
1. The idea that the years of Daniel’s vision are “prophetic” years of 360 days each, and not true solar years of 365 1/4 days. The germ for this concept seems to have originated with Julius Africanus in the Third Century A.D.
2. The idea that the Seventy Weeks began in the twentieth year of Artaxerxes I Longanimus (i.e., 445 B.C.), when Nehemiah received his commission to go up to Jerusalem, as recorded in Nehemiah chapter two. This concept also seems to have originated with Julius Africanus.
3. The idea that the entire seventieth week is yet future. This idea seems to have originated with Hippolytus in his commentary on the book of Daniel, written about A.D. 202.
Now thorough research reveals that the Patristic Fathers were anything but consistent in their interpretations of the details of Daniel’s prophecy of the Seventy Weeks; their views were practically as varied as are the views of scholars today. Thus, according to Louis E. Knowles, all three of the standard views of the Weeks held in subsequent Church history, that is, the eschatological, the historical, and the non-messianic, have roots tracing back to the Patristic period.3 Obviously, therefore, no clear-cut “prophetic system” based on the Seventy Weeks, such as modern dispensational premillennialism proposes, was even known, much less taught.
What is telling for the refutation of dispensational theory at this point, however, is the observation that Sir Robert Anderson adopted only the three specific elements mentioned above, and not the entire expositional system of the Weeks belonging to either Hippolytus or Julius Africanus. In other words, he chose only what suited him from their writings, and ignored the rest of what they said were the controlling features of the prophecy.
We start first, for example, with Hyppolytus, who taught that the Weeks began in the first year of Dairus the Mede, that is 538 B.C. (which, by the way, is exactly what this author contends for in opposition to modern dispensationalism!). Hyppolytus also believed that it was the two witnesses of Revelation chapter eleven who confirmed the covenant with many for one week in Daniel 9:27, and not Sir Robert Anderson’s celebrated “Roman Antichrist” ideal.
Consider, further, Julius Africanus, who taught that the sixty-nine weeks ended with the baptism of Jesus, not the Triumphal Entry, and said nothing at all about the identity of the covenant-maker in verse twenty-seven, though it is reasonable to assume that since he had ended the sixty-nine weeks at Jesus’ baptism, he would naturally have thought it was the Messiah. Certainly, like Hyppolytus, Julius Africanus himself knew nothing at all of Sir Robert Anderson’s famous concept—so foundational to the ideational structure of popular “dispensational” Bible prophecy theory today!!!—of a “Roman Antichrist” making a covenant with the Jews for seven years in Daniel 9:27!
The Fine-Toothed Probe
From whence, then, opponents probe, do modern dispensational Bible prophecy theorists come up with the dogma of a future seven year covenant making and breaking Roman Antichrist Great Tribulation scenario based on Daniel 9:27? They derive it from two sources: first, from the following misguided analysis of the text itself, and second, from the widespread confusion caused by the adoption of a wholly “futuristic,” as opposed to the traditional “historic,” method of interpreting the book of Revelation.
The Farcical Profession
We note, first, that Sir Robert Anderson’s alleged “Roman Antichrist” identification of the covenant-maker in Daniel 9:27 unwinds from the text itself as follows:
1. The people of a coming “ruler” destroy the city and the sanctuary in 9:26b
2. Jerusalem was destroyed by the Roman armies of Titus in A.D. 70
3. The prophecy (it is assumed!) is therefore intended to have a double reference fulfillment: first, (but only of secondary importance!!) to the Roman armies and the Roman general Titus, or perhaps the Roman Emperor Vespasian; and second, (and, of course, of primary emphasis!!!) to the Revived Roman Empire of the Last Days, and its leader, the Roman Antichrist
4. On the basis of this assumed double reference intention (it is further assumed!!!!) the “ruler” of 9:26b, that is, the future leader of a revived Roman Empire, becomes the antecedent of the “he” in verse twenty-seven, who confirms the covenant with many for one week
5. Thus, the Roman Antichrist of the Last Days makes a covenant with Jews for seven years, and so on
The Fabrication Parted
Perceptive opponents of dispensational theory take issue with the interpretative “slight of hand,” which they detect in the foregoing rationale. In the first place, they contend, it is impossible to demonstrate within the confines of the text of Daniel 9:26b itself, that the designation “people” was intended by Gabriel to be a portrayal of the Roman armies who destroyed Jerusalem in A.D. 70. Second, even if the Roman identification of the destroying people were accepted, it can still by no means be logically proven that the historic Roman general Titus, or any other First Century Roman official for that matter, can be pressed into a legitimate foreshadowing of an eschatological Roman Antichrist.4
The bottom line in dispensationalism’s contention for a Roman Antichrist identification of the covenant-maker in Daniel 9:27, so opponents allege, roots in an ambiguous phenomenon of theoretical “eisegesis”: that is, SRA imported his idea of the Roman Antichrist into the text of Daniel 9:27 from broader theological and philosophical considerations identifying the pope of Rome with antichrist, rather than deriving the idea form a solid exegesis of the Daniel text itself.5 The masquerading allegedly attempted here is understandable, moreover, when we consider that most of the Protestant Reformers rightly identified Romanism with an antichrist, thought not necessarily with the final one. (In the revealed structure of biblical apocalyptic motifs the so-called final “Antichrist” is no “Roman” at all: rather, he arises from the East after the “papal” extension of Rome has fallen.6) Whatever other Scriptural basis the Protestant Reformers may have had for their identification of Romanism with antichrist, there is no evidence to indicate that their scholastic reflections on Daniel 9:27 played any part in that equation!!
Thus, all evidence points to this surmise: the genius of Sir Robert Anderson’s profoundly influential scheme of Daniel’s prophecy of the Seventy Weeks must be attributed, in part, to his success in importing the popular Protestant Reformation dogma of the “papal” Antichrist into the text of Daniel 9:27 (a classic example of what seminarians call “eisegesis”!) The interpretative innovation, which Sir Robert Anderson and the modern dispensational Bible prophecy theorists have proposed, ironically, however, could never have been approved by one of the greatest leaders of the Protestant Reformation itself, John Calvin. The following quotation reveals Calvin’s disdain for modern dispensationalism’s Jewish predecessors:
“Next, another statement is added, he shall confirm the treaty with many. The Jews elude the force of this clause very dishonestly, and without the slightest shame. They twist it to Vespasian and Titus, Vespasian had been sent into Syrian and the East by Nero. It is perfectly true, that through a wish to avoid a severe slaughter of his soldiers, he tried all conditions of peace, and enticed the Jews by every possible inducement to give themselves up to him, rather than to force him to the last extremity. Truly enough, then, Vespasian exhorted the Jews to peace, and Titus, after his father had passed over to Italy, followed the same policy; but was this confirming the covenant? When the angel of God is treating events of the last importance, and embracing the whole condition of the Church, their explanation is trifling who refer it to the Roman leaders wishing to enter into a treaty with the people.” 7
The Fabled Pact
Architects of modern dispensational Bible prophecy theory defend Sir Robert Anderson’s future seven year covenant making and breaking (Roman) Antichrist scenario of Daniel 9:27 on the basis of its supposed harmony with Isaiah 28:15-18, Ezekiel 21:25-27, Daniel 8:25; 11:21ff.; and John 5:43. The theme that ties these verses together in the dispensational way of thinking, of course, is the idea of a “covenant,” which is presumably to be made between Antichrist and the nation of Israel in the last days.
Perceptive opponents of the system point out, however, that a careful study of these texts in their individual contexts reveals that their supposed harmony with an alleged covenant making activity of a final “Roman Antichrist” in Daniel 9:27 is more apparent than real.
In the first place, they contend, the projection of Antichrist orchestrating a peace treaty with the Jews for seven years into the text of Daniel 9:27, itself, is exceedingly dubious on the grounds that the text says nothing about the making (i.e., “cutting”) of a new kind of covenant, as should be the case were the dispensational emphasis correct, but rather the “causing” of one that already exists “to prevail.” 8
Second, it should be noted that Israel’s “covenant” in Isaiah 28:15,18 is a covenant with “death” and not Antichrist at all, for where is there any hint of some future “Roman Antichrist” in this passage per se? Only a fertile imagination, not responsible interpretation, can possibly make out dispensationalism’s alleged covenant confirming Antichrist scenario of Daniel 9:27 here. Far from being a veiled prediction of the making and breaking of a peace treaty between the Jews and a final “Roman Antichrist” these verses merely indicate the stubborn attitude of Isaiah’s contemporaries in choosing to die, rather than to admit that they had built their world on a foundation of lies—a revealing picture of the desperate pride of the carnal heart. There is, to be sure, a futuristic application in this text, but it lies solely in the implicit portrayal of the historic Jewish attitude toward Jesus of Nazareth (the foundation stone of vs. 16), and the ultimate consequences thereof. Nothing in the text of Isaiah 28:15-18, itself, requires the introduction of the covenant confirming Antichrist saga alleged in Daniel 9:27. Those who attempt to import it there are guilty of blatant “eisegesis.”
Third, it should be noted that the “profane wicked prince” of Ezekiel 21:25 refers directly to Zedekiah, the last king of Judah, and has no bearing on the Antichrist theme at all. Zedekiah could have repented, thus averting, at least temporarily, the final Babylonian invasion. Because he failed to do so his kingdom would be overthrown. The mere fact, therefore, that Ezekiel uses the expression “when iniquity shall have an end” (vs. 25) in his remonstration against Zedekiah, must not be rashly taken as a veiled prediction of the end of the Church age, as some dispensationalists, in their zeal to bolster the credibility of Sir Robert Anderson’s theory, would make believe. Rather, a full and satisfying fulfillment of the pronouncement was achieved in the historical context: the iniquity in question had, indeed, its “end” in the judgment of the Babylonian Captivity. Henceforth, there would be no king until the righteousness Messiah came.
Fourth, it might seem on the bare surface of English word associations that Daniel 8:25; and 11:21ff. fits the description dispensationalists commonly assign to Antichrist in Daniel 9:27. The “by peace shall he destroy many” of 8:25 means no “making of a peace treaty,” however, but is better translated, as in the NASB, by “he will destroy many while they are at ease.” Nor can it be adequately demonstrated that the “league” of 11:23 has application to the career of some final “Roman Antichrist” in the same way that is presumed in Daniel 9:27, for the context and its application are too obscure to admit of such arbitrary rendition. There is no evidence, scholastic or otherwise, moreover, to prove that Antiochus Epiphanes (the intended figure portrayed by the “king of the north” here!!) is a signature to the “holy covenant” in 11:28, 30, 32, for the connotation of the expression “holy covenant” is authentically religious and not politically deceptive, Antichrist being no contributing party to the establishing of that covenantal relationship at all!!
Finally, in regard to John 5:43, it may suffice to note that no evidence exists to prove that Jesus’ words “if another shall come in his own name, him ye will receive,” can be pressed into the veiled prediction that Israel would be seduced into signing a seven year peace treaty with some final “Roman Antichrist.” Rather, Jesus merely indicated to his contemporaries that many of them would follow false prophets and false Christs, as history reveals was indeed the case in the years preceding and following the destruction of Jerusalem in A.D. 70. It is totally unwarranted, therefore, to read more into Jesus pronouncement than that expression in its historical context actually requires.
Perceptive opponents of modern dispensational Bible prophecy theory affirm that it is fruitful imagination, and not responsible interpretation, which must link Daniel 9:27; Isaiah 28:15-18; Ezekiel 21:25-27; Daniel 8:25; 11:21ff.; and John 5:43 together as signally portraying an alleged covenant confirming activity of Antichrist. Not a shred of Scriptural evidence for the popular assumption that Antichrist orchestrates a peace treaty in the Middle East for seven years exists other than this exceedingly dubious conglomeration of context-obliterated proof texts!!! No passage of Scripture, we repeat, when sensibly interpreted in the light of its own literary and historical context, can be brought forward to support such a notion!! The revolutionary bombshell, we strongly wish to impress our readers with is simply this: no seven year future prophetic Great Tribulation time frame based on Daniel’s prophecy of the Seventy Weeks exists with which to start, and there is no covenant to be made between the Jews and Antichrist as a “fill-in” for the content of that presumed seven years. Of this much we can now begin to rest assured.
The Fevered Protest
Dispensationalists tenaciously cling to their alleged future seven year covenant making and breaking Roman Antichrist Great Tribulation scenario of Daniel 9:27 on the grounds of what they believe is the overwhelming confirmation of their system’s truth claims provided by Sir Robert Anderson’s famous solution to the chronology of Daniel’s first sixty-nine weeks. This marvelous discovery, it is widely presumed, effectively precludes the messianic identification of the covenant-maker held by opponents.
Dispensationalism’s bluff is called, however, by the uncanny ability of its protagonists to storm its last bunker. Sir Robert Anderson’s much vaunted precision-quality solution to the chronology of Daniel’s sixty-nine weeks (ever-recurring exegetical “backbone” for the whole of modern dispensational eschatology!!!) is, indeed, they allege, a derailing illusion, laid permanently to rest by the sure guns of careful analysis.
The Fatal Problems
Aside from the question of legitimacy for dispensationalism’s assumed collaboration of a covenant confirming “Roman Antichrist” theme gleaned from a handful of surfacely related passages, and aside from this book’s penetrating insight into dispensationalism’s method of confusing “futurism” (the individual, “personal” Antichrist idea) with the Protestant Reformer’s more cosmic “papal” (historical “system”) antichrist understanding, three technical flaws in Sir Robert Anderson’s precision-quality solution to the chronology of the sixty-nine weeks themselves make his theory, per se, academically untenable.
THE MISSING DAY
We note, first, Sir Robert Anderson’s claim that the Seventy Weeks began on March 14, 445 B.C., when Nehemiah received his commission to go to Jerusalem, as recorded in Nehemiah chapter two. This claim, opponents allege, is discredited because no exact day for the granting of Nehemiah’s commission exists in the biblical record itself. How then, they ask, can Sir Robert Anderson use astronomy to affix the exact solar date of March 14 to an allegedly exact source date, which, in fact, is never mentioned in the Bible at all?
Dispensationalists have tried to relieve the embarrassment of Sir Robert Anderson’s theory at this point by making blanket appeals to an ambiguous “Jewish custom” that certain “festivals” were held on the first day of the month, which they then use as an excuse for placing the unmentioned day of the granting of Nehemiah’s commission on that first day.
Attempts (such as Alva J. McClain has made,9) to gloss over the conceptual “muddledness” in Sir Robert Andersen’s ideational “slight of hand” here, however, must be recognized for what they really are: bewitching pretexts that are merely subterfuge for concealing this revealing fact: no evidence, biblical or otherwise, exists to prove that Nehemiah received his commission on any festival days!!
Certainly if the Holy Spirit intended the Church to know that the exact day of the granting of Nehemiah’s commission was the beginning of Daniel’s Seventy Weeks Nehemiah should have at least told us plainly when that day was, as he was in the habit of doing with the dates for other important events that he records, even those events that likewise occurred on the first day of the month (Neh. 8:2, 18)!!!!
We may safely conclude from the evidence—or rather from the lack of evidence!!!—, therefore, that Sir Robert Anderson’s much vaunted March 14, 445 B.C. dateset for the beginning of the Seventy Weeks is pure fiction, an unabashed surmise, if you please, grounded in an un-verifiable obscurity. Though surfacely impressive indeed, it is nevertheless an illusion that has led thousand into accepting a false interpretation of Scripture.
The missing day in the text of Nehemiah chapter two explodes, of course, Sir Robert Anderson’s famous precision-quality solution to the chronology of the sixty-nine weeks at its very fountainhead. Here the elusive “nut” of dispensational logical necessity “cracks,” its venerated “judges” are overthrown “in stony places,” and, like the unknotted thread that pulls through a half-stitched garment, modern Second Coming “dispensational” Bible prophecy scenarios based on Sir Robert Anderson’s theory of the Seventy Weeks—as integrated systems of ideational coherency—become unraveled for self-consistent thinkers from here on.
THE AMBIGUOUS DIVISION
Sir Robert Andersen’s theory, further, fails to account for an exact day dividing point in time between the seven and the sixty-two weeks making up the sixty-nine, which, obviously, the logic inherent in his precision methodology requires.
Dispensationalists have attempted to alleviate this second major embarrassment in Sir Robert Anderson’s theory by placing his elusive division between the seven and the sixty-two weeks in “the ceasing of prophecy with Malachi.” The subterfuge again, however, is apparent: advocates of this solution are merely grasping at straws in a vain effort to maintain the prejudices of an untenable theory: even if the improbable later dating of Malachi were accepted, there is still no exact day when they can say that Malachi’s prophecy ceased!!!!!!
Notwithstanding the fallacies of reason that dispensationalists use in their attempt to camouflage the logical incongruencies inherent in Sir Robert Andersen’s scenario, this fact remains: the logical consistency of any purported precision-quality solution to the chronology of the sixty-nine weeks requires the accountability of an exact day dividing point in time between the seven and the sixty-two weeks. Sir Robert Anderson’ s scheme, surfacely impressive though it may be, fails to meet that criterion!!!
THE PROBLEMATIC DATES
Finally, the dates Sir Robert Anderson’s theory assigns to events in the life of Christ are too late to be in harmony with the consensus of biblical scholarship.
First, for example, the dispensational chronology of the sixty-nine weeks requires that the birth of Christ could not have occurred before 4 B.C. Traditional scholarship unanimously affirms, however, that King Herod the Great died in the Spring of 4 B.C., and, consequently, therefore, Christ’s birth had to have preceded that landmark at least long enough for events in Matthew 2:1-18 to have transpired. Some scholars place the birth of Christ as early as 7-6 B.C. Other equally reputable authorities will favor a 5 B.C. date.
Similarly, Sir Robert Anderson’s theory requires an A.D. 29 baptism date and an A.D. 32 crucifixion date, whereas most fundamental New Testament scholars place the baptism in A.D. 26-27, and the crucifixion in A.D. 29-30. According to Sir George Airy’s astronomical calculations, so claims Sir Robert Anderson, Good Friday occurred on April 11, A.D. 32, but Joachim Jeremias denies this, and proves from astronomy, rather, that the year A.D. 32 must be ruled out as a possibility for the date of the crucifixion!!! 10
Thus, on the basis of the best scholastic evidence we have available, we must conclude that Sir Robert Anderson’s much vaunted April 6, A.D. 32 Palm Sunday termination date for the sixty-nine weeks is likewise misguided.
The Finding Published
When the above evidence has been carefully and cumulatively considered Sir Robert Anderson’s much vaunted precision-quality solution to the chronology of the sixty-nine weeks (really, as we have said repeatedly, the exegetical “backbone” for the whole of modern dispensational theory!!) will be found wanting. It is merely fortuitous, and not bonafide, the well-spring of a profound salvation history illusion, stymied by controversy, and shrouded in confusion.
The great harm in Sir Robert Anderson’s mythological solution to the chronology of the sixty-nine weeks lies, of course, in the way that it obstructs and obscures the truth that leads to a right identification of the covenant-maker in Daniel 9:27. By placing the end of the sixty-nine weeks at the close of Christ’s earthly mission the dispensationalists imply that the seventieth week must be entirely yet future. But if the sixty-nine weeks end with the birth of Christ, or even at his baptism, as other Bible scholars believe, then the first half of the seventieth week falls naturally in line with Christ’s public ministry.
The Fantastic Projection
Believe it or not, there is a promising new precision-quality alternative to Sir Robert Anderson’s misguided solution to the chronology of the sixty-nine weeks that does lead to their ending at the birth of Christ!!! Before leaving what has turned out to be a rather lengthy aside dealing with the dispensational contention over the chronology of the Weeks to take it up, however, there is yet one other item that has to do with the emphasis dispensationalists put on the precise termination of Sir Robert Anderson’s sixty-nine weeks at the Triumphal Entry.
The Foul Postscript
According to Sir Robert Anderson, Daniel’s sixty-ninth week ended precisely on the day that Jesus presented himself to the Jews as their promised Messiah on Palm Sunday, April 6, A.D. 32. On that very day, so dispensationalism claims, as a result of Christ’s rejection by the religious leadership in Jerusalem, God’s prophetic clock stopped “ticking” as far as the nation of Israel was concerned. From that point onward, it is widely presumed, the “dispensations” were radically altered, and a new metaphysical—as opposed to exegetical!!!—dichotomy between God’s purpose for the Church and his purpose for the Jews established that reaches to the furthest corners of the dispensational mentality.
Opponents of dispensational theory contend, however, that the significance, which dispensationalism attaches to the precise termination of the sixty-nine weeks at the Triumphal Entry is unjustified, if not wholly misguided.
In the first place, they argue, even if the validity of Sir Robert Anderson’s theory were accepted, it is still indefensible to maintain that Jesus only presented himself to the Jews as their promised Messiah on that particular day (i.e., Palm Sunday), for Jesus had, in fact, already been publicly proclaimed as the promised Messiah of the Jews at the onset of his career (Lk. 2:8-17; Matt. 3:11-17; Jn. 1:29-34), and at various other times throughout his public ministry (Matt. 9:27, 31; 12:23; Jn. 6:15; 8:25; 10:24-25).
Furthermore, the prosecution contends, the episode on Palm Sunday can in no way be legitimately construed to highlight a self-presentation of Jesus calculated to appease the misguided messianic expectations of the carnal religionists of First Century Palestine. Why? Because it was the enthusiastic reaction of Jesus’ Galilean supporters, and not the “self-assertiveness” of Jesus at all, which is the true focus of the Palm Sunday incident. There is not a shred of evidence to suggest that Jesus ever intended to gratify the popular messianic expectations held by the unregenerate masses of his day. Certainly if Jesus had intended to “present himself” as the political messiah expected by the backslidden nation—which is precisely what the dispensational scenario subtly implies!!!—he could have chosen an even more spectacular method to have done so (cf. Matt. 4:5-7). It is unthinkable for a Christian to suppose, therefore, that Christ would have done on Palm Sunday at a time when his popularity in Judea and elsewhere had reached an all time low, what he had so decisively refused to do at the most opportune occasion of his entire ministry (cf. Jn. 6:15). Such a capitulation to carnal expectation just before the Cross as dispensationalism imagines here, would have amounted for Jesus to nothing more or less than a complete sell out of his entire redemptive mission—which, of course, is exactly what Satan wanted in the first place!!!
Perceptive opponents of dispensational theory maintain, therefore, that the dispensational truth claims regarding the significance of the precise termination of Daniel’s sixty-nine weeks on Palm Sunday, April 6, 32 A.D., are but manifest out croppings of a “fruitful imagination,” at best illogical, at worst, wholly absurd. Perhaps, they suggest, what emerges from the debate is a growing public awareness of the possibility that the misguided political messianic expectations of First Century Judaism (which actually led to the crucifixion of Jesus in the first place!!!!) have been paralleled in modern times through the teachings of popular dispensational Bible prophecy theory (“Darbyism”),far more than what most evangelicals have dared to imagine.11
The Focusing Pause
We may summarize the lessons learned from our “zap down” against the technical inaccuracies of popular dispensational Bible prophecy theory thus far, in the form of the syllogism that follows:
Thesis: Modern dispensational Bible prophecy “experts” derive the most basic organizational ideas of their Second Coming “scenarios” from Sir Robert Anderson’ s interpretation of Daniel’s prophecy of the Seventy Weeks
Antithesis: Sir Robert Anderson’s truth claims regarding the controlling features of Daniel’s prophecy of the Seventy Weeks are demonstratably untenable
Synthesis: The basic organizational ideas in modern “dispensational” Bible prophecy scenarios on the “end-time” are credulous “misnomers,” miscuing—if not completely misconstruing!!!—all that follows in the system.
Application: If there is no future seven year prophetic time frame that serves as a central, structurally organizing catalyst for harmonizing everything else the Bible says about the end-time with which to start; if Antichrist is not making a “covenant” with the Jews as a fill-in for the content of that presumed seven years; and, if the Holy Spirit is not removed from the world in a “secret” pre-tribulation rapture of the Church before that presumed seven year covenant making and breaking (Roman) Antichrist scenario all begins (all based, astounding as it may seem, solely on the dispensational understanding of Daniel 9:27!!!!!), then we have certainly “torn up the patch,” and Twentieth Century evangelical fundamentalism’s grassroots perception of the end-time is in one big mess!!!
Now where (oh where!!) will all the contenders in the modern “rapture question” debate go from here? A refreshing wind of change is already blowing in the right direction.
1. Sir Robert Anderson, The Coming Prince, 19th ed. (Grand Rapids: Kregel Publications, 1975).
2. For reliable background study in the origins of dispensationalism see Ernest Sandeen's The Roots of Fundamentalism; British and American Millennarianism 1800-1930, Norman Kraus' Dispensationalism in America, and Clarence Bass' Backgrounds to Dispensationalism.
3. Knowles, Interpretation, p. 160.
4. Edward J. Young, The Prophecy of Daniel (Grand Rapids: Wm B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1949), pp. 211-212.
5. Sir Robert Anderson's preoccupation with the Protestant Reformation's anti- Roman Catholic bias is apparent from even a causal reading of The Coming Prince, see for example pp. 6-10, 17, 133-137, 268-270, and 294-304.
6. Note the deep-structure "Assyrian" Antichrist motif in Isa. 10:24-27; 14:24-27; 30:27-33; 31:4-9; 52:1-12; and Micah 5:5-7. Paul's allusion to Isa. 30:30 in II Thess. 1:8 and 2:8 provides strong evidence for the eschatological orientation of the Isaian source, and, consequently thereby, direct proof of the enduring validity of its Antichrist inference.
7. Calvin, Commentary, p. 213.
8. Young, Daniel, p. 209.
9. Alva J. McClain, Daniel's Prophecy of the Seventy Weeks (Grand Rapids: Zondervan Publishing House, 1969), p. 24.
10. Joachin Jeremias, The Eucharistic Words of Jesus, Student ed. trans. Norman Perrin (London: SCM Press, 1966) , p. 41 .
11. Everett I. Carver, When Jesus Comes (Phillipsburg, New Jersey: Presbyterian and Reformed Publishing Company, 1979), pp. 300ff.